June 2013 Issue
May 24, 2013

Iannuzzi: June 8 - Standing up to 'slings and arrows'

Author: Richard C. Iannuzzi
Source: NYSUT United

Sisters and brothers, I am confident that this is our moment to take back our professions - to fight for the future of public education.

When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet's famous lines about the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," I'm convinced he wasn't referring to the experiences facing educators in their classrooms today. Yet, for too long, we have had to withstand an endless barrage of inequities, attacks, distortions and slashed budgets heaped on each of us and on our work as educators and as unionists advocating for our students and our professions.

For too long, educators and other public servants have been vilified and made the scapegoat of a bad economy and the misdirected frustrations of an understandably angry public.

For too long, so-called reformers - who would rather tear down than build up all that we do - have had undue influence over policies that affect our places of work and the people we serve.

We have responded by offering solutions and strategies that neither bury our heads in the sand nor foolishly embrace policies that undermine the professions we love. We've acknowledged where more progress is needed and spoken truth to power when we could find no merit in so-called reforms that ignore the best practices of our best practitioners

Yet, policymakers and bureaucrats continue to promote policies that undermine teaching and learning, as well as the student-teacher relationship.

Sisters and brothers, enough is enough! On June 8 in Albany, thousands will gather for our "One Voice United" rally to fight for the future of public education!

On June 8, together, we will stand against the out-of-control corporate influence over public education and the restructuring of teaching and learning to meet a business/profit agenda instead of the needs of students.

On June 8, together, we will fight for the equitable funding that all public schools require; the need to address the impact of poverty, whether experienced in a rural, suburban or urban community; and the restoration of local control of education, taken away by the unfair and undemocratic property tax cap.

On June 8, together, we will demand a moratorium on high stakes for standardized tests administered too soon, for too long and with too little attention given to the concerns of students, parents and educators. We will oppose the ludicrous recommendation before the Regents - ignoring the experiences and hardships borne by students - that an even more unproven measure should be applied with even greater stakes!

On June 8, together, we will demand that quality public higher education be made affordable and accessible to every student, regardless of family income or country of birth. New York state must fully invest in public higher education. It must support its medical centers, as well as other teaching facilities, that prepare future professionals and that serve as vehicles for low-income students to enter health care and other professions.

On June 8, together, we will support legislation that ensures this state's children learn in a secure, safe and nurturing environment free from harassment and bullying.

On June 8, together with parents, students, unionists and advocates for fairness and common sense, we will converge on the state Capitol at the Empire State Plaza and, in one strong, loud voice, we will say: "Enough is enough!"

Sisters and brothers, we need you there. Go to nysut.org or contact the NYSUT office in your area — find out how to stand with colleagues, parents, students and the community June 8.

When I think of why we - you and I - should be there June 8, I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s words:

"In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

The moment, indeed, is here.

We can either surrender the day or seize it.

Yes, this is our moment. This is your moment.

Can any of us afford not to be there?

Note: Your comments on this column or any issue you wish to share directly with me are welcomed. Email your thoughts to dialogue@nysutmail.org.